Volume 79, Number 12 | Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Kurland shone at debate

To The Editor:
Re “Quinn on hot seat in debating Passannante-Derr and Kurland” (news article, Aug. 19):

Yetta Kurland is clearly the better candidate! She asks the hard questions, listens and engages the audience. Quinn repeatedly agrees with her, while giving open-ended answers and refusing to take responsiblity for the overdevelopment and rampant displacement of the district on her watch. 

The article fails to mention that 75 percent of New Yorkers did not want Quinn and the mayor to extend term limits; and the police permitting scheme approved by Quinn has chilled political dissent and forced citizens to file for permits to exercise their right to free speech. 

Quinn championed the destruction of the Union Square north plaza, and approved miles of luxury condos with no regard to the resulting effect on existing communities’ schools, utilities, traffic and transportation. Derr is too rabid and withdrawn to lead. Kurland on Sept. 15!

Susan Howard 

Alphie’s column was a gift

To The Editor:
Re “My brother Frank: The teacher who walked beside me” (Memorial, by Alphie McCourt, Aug. 19):

Alphie, thank you for writing something so real. Thank you for bringing us into the room with you and into your thoughts and memories around Frank. It is these things that are of real value. I breathe a deep breath of fresh air. It is such a pleasure to be free of cloying sentimentality.

Marta Szabo

We’ve got problems

To The Editor:
Would someone please explain to me how Mayor Bloom-berg creates these oxymoronic catchy titles for himself?
First, he is the “Education Mayor” — for kids without schools. Then, he is the “Good-For-Business Mayor” — and I just see more and more empty store windows.

What about that plant-a-million-trees for PlaNYC? Guess what? I just noticed today that no one in his administration seems to know that once the trees are planted they need watering. The trees on Eighth Ave. in my neighborhood around 12th St. seem to be dying.

Now he is going to be tough on the M.T.A. just after a ceiling at the 181st St. I.R.T. station collapses. Has he been dong anything regarding the M.T.A. during his reign?

Please, I need help, I just have a graduate degree. Anyone out there?

Pamela L. La Bonne

A ‘certain kind of Jew’?

To The Editor:
Re “Thanks, Budd, for everything, even for Sammy Glick” (Memorial, by Jerry Tallmer, Aug. 12):

It is appalling that Jerry Tallmer should identify Sammy Glick as a “certain kind of Jew” who could have come out of the “cartoons in Julius Streicher’s Nazi newspaper... .” Streicher’s “cartoons” portrayed Jews not primarily as greedy and unprincipled but as lethal and sordid parasites who sucked the blood, gold and vitality out of the German nation (and made it lose World War I) and who therefore had to be eliminated from society.

This, of course, is a recognizable, updated version of the medieval European myth accusing Jews of draining the blood of kidnapped Christian children to use for the production of matzo for Passover. This “blood libel,” as it became called, was cynically employed to justify and incite pogroms in Europe for centuries — even as late as 1946 in Kielce, Poland (source, for those interested, is Nora Levin’s “The Holocaust”), and still circulates. 

Ruthless as Glick may be, he does not descend to the level of the mythological anti-Semitic stereotype of bloodsucker in Streicher’s propaganda. One wonders whether Tallmer actually saw some of Streicher’s bilge before he leaped into print.

Tallmer implies that Glick’s merciless, unethical and exploitative behavior in climbing the ladder of success derives from his being a Jew; a “certain kind of Jew” is still a Jew — someone who has Jewish ancestry and is a product of Jewish history and culture and a member of the Jewish people. 

What he does not say is that Glick is an assimilationist Jew — one who has rejected and discarded Jewish culture and its behavioral norms and, instead, has chosen to model himself on a certain type of man in the majority culture. In his case, it is the rapacious, capitalist robber baron of the late 19th century. 

Tallmer should have identified Glick as being a man who chose the worst type in American life to emulate, not as a stereotypical Jew in racist, genocide-inciting propaganda.

Aviva Cantor
Cantor is the author of “Jewish Women, Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life.”

It’s the same old N.Y.U.

To The Editor:
Re “Provincetown drama encore as theater’s wall partly removed” (news article, Aug. 19):

With the discovery of the partial demolition of the walls of the Provincetown Playhouse theater which it promised to preserve, New York University has now reprised its lamentable behavior with the Poe House in 2002. There, too, N.Y.U. struck a deal with the community in which it promised to preserve a segment of this historic structure within its new Law School building. But when the scaffolding came down, N.Y.U. claimed it was not feasible to preserve and reuse the promised sections of the building, to the outrage of many.

What’s interesting in this case is that N.Y.U. had claimed that it had done a thorough engineering evaluation of the entire historic Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments building (of which the small theater it promised to preserve comprised less than 6 percent), and that this evaluation provided irrefutable evidence that the building was not structurally capable of being reused for the new Law School offices the university wanted to build on site.

Yet somehow it now seems the engineer’s evaluation missed that the walls of the theater that N.Y.U. was promising to preserve might not be able to be saved. N.Y.U. held out this promise as part of the basis upon which it received approvals for this project from many of its supporters. Even those of us who did not buy N.Y.U.’s argument and lobbied instead for preservation and reuse of the entire building — which the New York State Historic Preservation Office ruled was qualified for listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places — acknowledged that the plan to preserve the building’s theater section was a step forward from N.Y.U.’s original plan to demolish all but the tiny theater entry facade. 

Now it would seem that N.Y.U. either hid the fact that it could not keep the promise upon which the approvals it sought were given, or at the very least failed to do due diligence to see if this commitment was one it was really in a position to make.

This comes on the heels of the discovery that N.Y.U. is seeking building permits for a taller and larger structure at the former Catholic Center site than it claimed it plans to build there; the reasons for this are still unclear, but the university’s claim that it had to file such permit applications in order to pursue a variance for the shorter, smaller building it promised to pursue have been refuted by the Department of Buildings. 

Is this really the new N.Y.U. transparency, or just the same old N.Y.U. dishonesty?

Andrew Berman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Fooled by N.Y.U. again

To The Editor:
Re “Provincetown drama encore as theater’s wall partly removed” (news article, Aug. 19):

When the Historic Districts Council heard about the deal struck with New York University about “preserving” the Provincetown Playhouse, it felt like déjà vu all over again. More than seven years ago, a similar “preservation” solution was proposed and agreed upon for the Poe House; in that case, the university was going to rebuild the facade using the original bricks. Well, one thing led to another and the original bricks weren’t in good enough shape or perhaps there weren’t enough of them after the demolition. So alternate bricks were found and a strange homage to a federal rowhouse was constructed on W. Third St., perhaps 100 feet west from where the original historic building stood. Take a walk down W. Third St. sometime and see for yourself how well that “preservation” solution worked.
Therefore, when H.D.C. heard about the Provincetown compromise, we were rather wary of it. The issue is not and never should have become the design of the replacement building. The issue was the preservation of what N.Y.U.

President Sexton once called “the fragile ecosystem” of the Village. The preservation solution was remarkably simple — the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments should have been preserved, both on the site’s merits, as well as an anchor for a long-desired South Village Historic District, a goal N.Y.U. had professed to support.

Instead, a long-winded argument was made about the site’s historic integrity and alterations that were made 50 years ago robbing the site of its historic character. Balderdash. The theater was still the Provincetown Playhouse, which still had a strong, if not completely unbroken, 70-year history as a major theatrical center, which was proudly proclaimed in the Playbills of shows produced there until N.Y.U. closed the place’s doors to the public. That was the first step — soon the building became inadequate for the university’s needs and a perfectly fine historic building had to be replaced with a historicist building.

Never fear, though. N.Y.U. reassured the concerned community that the complex’s heart — the Provincetown Playhouse itself, which even the university’s consultants admitted had significance — would remain intact, if not untouched. Too bad no one walked down the block to Poe House to see how well that turned out.
Simeon Bankoff
Bankoff is executive director, Historic Districts Council

Park acoustics are totally off

To The Editor:
Re “Park neighbors want drummers to just beat it” (news article, Aug. 5):

Let’s remember that the acoustics in Washington Square Park have been completely changed with the new design. We now have a vast, barren plaza with no trees or buildings as sound buffers around the plaza and fountain. This space is now also completely open to Fifth Ave. and Thompson St. for miles of sound travel. This problem was predicted and ignored by the Parks Department at many pre-design meetings.

The exceptional ruckus caused by the “pots-and-pans guy” was a terrible disturbance and, thankfully, it has been eliminated. But banning all drums in the park is not an acceptable solution. A big part of the charm and character of Washington Square is the variety of musical groups and spontaneous entertainers. In fact, a 10-year-old relative of mine is always dazzled by finding “a virtual music gallery” on a walk through the park, each group a different style without overwhelming the nearest one, or so it was.

The installation of trees might be a good idea for the plaza, even if they must be in tubs. But the problem does need solving. With all the experts and money involved, it seems likely there is a sensible solution. This problem should also be a wake-up call to the Parks Department for the new location and design of the performance stage. Current plans appear to reduce and move that space and leave it wide open to LaGuardia Place, without sound buffers. It’s worth another analysis, before work begins, to avoid a repeat of environmental impact on this neighborhood and its residents and merchants.

But let’s not ban any musical instruments because of design mistakes.

Mary Johnson

Our artistic void

To The Editor:
Re “Nadler nets millions for the arts” (news brief, July 29):

Congratulations to Mr. Nadler and to the many Downtown arts groups that will share in the funds Mr. Nadler was able to direct to them. This lifeline of shared wealth will be welcome to not only artists but to the the neighborhoods as well. The presence of artists is one of the first signs of neighborhood resurgence, and these funds will keep that process on track.

However, Downtown public (as in street) artists are entirely left out of this process. They unwisely disbanded the only organization (S.I.A.C.U.) that exclusively represented fine artists (A.R.T.I.S.T. is a vending group), so public fine artists could not apply or qualify for these funds. Too bad, because without promotion or recognition, public artists simply fade into the haze of illegal vendors and bootleggers and therefore lose visibility and the organizational framework necessary for recognition and control over their own destiny.

Good new for A.R.T.I.S.T. Bad news for public artists.

Lawrence White

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